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Wilkinson v. Cameron

August 12, 2010

STEVEN WILKINSON PETITIONER,
v.
KENNETH CAMERON, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Carlson

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Statement of Facts and of The Case

This case is one of two habeas corpus petitions filed by Steven Wilkinson, a state prisoner, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In these two petitions, Wilkinson separately named the state parole board and the Attorney General as Respondents, and asserted that the state parole board violated various plea agreements which he had with state and federal authorities through its administration and calculation of sentences imposed on Wilkinson for new crimes, and state parole violations.

In connection with these petitions, the Petitioner has submitted a discovery motion (Doc. 18) seeking all state parole board records relating to his sentence calculation. Wilkinson has made this identical request in both cases which he has filed, asking the Court to assist him is securing all pertinent state parole board sentence calculation records.

In Wilkinson's companion case against the state parole board, the parole board has filed a response on the merits of his petition which appears to provide Wilkinson with much of the information he seeks regarding how this sentence calculation was conducted. Nonetheless Wilkinson has persisted in pursuing a discovery motion in this case, which names the Attorney General as Respondent, demanding the same information from this Respondent. (Doc. 18).

The Attorney General has now filed a response and brief in opposition to this discovery motion. (Docs. 38 and 39.) In this response, the Attorney General raises a fourfold objection to Wilkinson's discovery request noting:

First, Wilkinson's motion for production of documents should be denied because the claim underlying the request for discovery is procedurally defaulted and ineligible for merits review by this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

Second, Wilkinson's motion for production of documents should be denied because the claim underlying the request for discovery is, on its face, without merit as a matter of law.

Third, Wilkinson's motion for production of documents should be denied because the documents requested by Wilkinson are in the possession of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, which is the Respondent in the companion habeas corpus petition filed at No 3:10-CV-01436.

Fourth, Wilkinson's motion for production of documents should be denied because the documents relevant to Wilkinson's habeas corpus claims are attached as exhibits to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole's response to Wilkinson's habeas corpus petition filed at No 3:10-CV-01436. (Id.)

This matter has been fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 18, 38, 39, and 42) and is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, in the exercise of our discretion, we will deny this discovery request.

II. Discussion

Habeas petitioners have no absolute right to make discovery demands upon respondents. Thus, " '[a] habeas petitioner, unlike the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to discovery as a matter of ordinary course." Bracy v. Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997).' " Vasquez v. Glover, No. 09-2593, 2010 WL 2569715, *1 (D.N.J. June 24, 2010). Rather, decisions on discovery requests rest in the sound discretion of the court. See Levi v. Holt, 192 F.App'x 158, 162 (3d Cir. 2006). That discretion is guided by certain basic principles, however. Thus "Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases,..., provides that discovery will not be granted except for good cause." Id. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Petitioner to make a showing of good cause to justify discovery in these proceedings. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted:

Just as bald assertions and conclusory allegations do not afford a sufficient ground for an evidentiary hearing, see Wacht v. Cardwell, 604 F.2d 1245, 1246 n. 2 (9th Cir.1979), neither do they provide a basis for imposing upon the state the burden of responding in discovery to every habeas petitioner who chooses to seek such discovery. Under Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases Under ยง 2254 the district court has discretion to decide the extent to which ...


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